Colson Whitehead   The Intuitionist  
Colson Whitehead    

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The Intuitionist: an excerpt

  Meet Lila Mae Watson, inspector par excellence in a major metropolitan city's Department of Elevator Inspectors. The first black female inspector in the department's history, she has its highest accuracy rate. Lila Mae is an Intuitionist, and she is never wrong.

The Intuitionists, swamis of elevator inspection, feel the elevator. The Empiricists, on the other hand, go by the book, and naturally, they are deeply suspicious of Intuitionist methodology. So when an elevator crashes on Lila Mae's watch, chaos ensues. Sabotage is the obvious explanation: it's an election year in the Elevator Guild, and the good-old-boy Empiricists would love nothing more than to assign the blame to an Intuitionist.

As Lila Mae tries to uncover the truth, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue. The sudden appearance of excerpts from the lost notebooks of Intuitionism's founder, James Fulton, has caused quite a stir. The notebooks describe Fulton's work on the "black box," a perfect elevator that could reinvent the city as radically as the first passenger elevator did when patented by Elisha Otis in the nineteenth century. Lila Mae becomes involved in the search for the notebooks and discovers a secret that will change her life forever.

Colson Whitehead has written an utterly original novel, and in Lila Mae Watson he has created one of the most endearing heroines in quite some time. Marked by lithe prose and a stylish urban vision, Whitehead offers a thoroughly engaging meditation on race. A dead-serious and seriously funny feat of the imagination, The Intuitionist marks the debut of an extremely talented young writer.

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  Photo of Colson Whitehead copyright © Natasha Stovall

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